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ESPN Ranks the Colts Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly Among the NFL’s Top 10 Interior Offensive Linemen

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NFL: OCT 06 Colts at Chiefs Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (subscription), Indianapolis Colts All-Pro offensive guard Quenton Nelson and Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly are ranked among the NFL’s Top 10 interior offensive linemen—coming in at #1 and #9 respectively:

1. Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts

Age: 24 | Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: 3

You don’t have to watch Nelson play for long to notice his presence.

“Just turn on the tape. You’ll see why he’s No. 1,” one AFC exec said.

Nelson has gone 30 games without allowing a sack, according to Pro Football Focus data, and the Colts ranked seventh in rushing in 2019 despite injuries at quarterback and wide receiver. Nelson’s youth and rookie contract are attractive for team-building. Plus, he “destroys people,” the exec said, and that always helps.

Then again, he’s not quite a perfect player.

“He will always have a few plays where he’ll whiff because he’s trying to kill you,” one NFC exec said. “So he can make you hesitant to put that really big grade on him. But he wreaks havoc.”

Added an NFL defensive coach: “Ever since I saw Cam Heyward whoop up on him, I’ve never looked at him the same.”

9. Ryan Kelly, Indianapolis Colts

Age: 27 | Highest ranking: 8 | Lowest ranking: Off the ballot

Kelly has something that most centers don’t.

“Power,” an AFC exec said. “He can move people off the ball like a guard.”

After facing durability concerns early in his career, Kelly played 16 games in 2019 and allowed one sack in 1,018 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus data.

The Colts believe Kelly is past his injury issues and that this year can take his career to a new level. He’s the type of player Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor will gladly run behind.

The ranking was compiled by the votes of more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts, and players to help determine the best players at each respective NFL position.

Both Nelson and Kelly represented the Colts at this past season’s Pro Bowl, as each standout helped anchor one of the best offensive lines in football—making all 16 starts a piece for Indianapolis.

Per Pro Football Focus (subscription), Nelson was their 2nd best graded offensive guard in 2019 with a +91.2 grade overall—highlighted by a +90.1 run blocking grade. He allowed 0 sacks this past season (and has a current streak of 30 straight games without a sack), as well as 20 total QB pressures—while committing a total of 3 penalties.

Nelson was recently ranked PFF’s 4th best overall player in their Top 50 NFL players.

Meanwhile, Kelly was PFF’s 8th best graded center with a +73.0 grade overall during 2019. He only surrendered a single sack and 21 total QB pressures—while he had 6 total penalties.

Kelly was recently named the Colts’ ‘most underrated player’.

Nelson is only 24 years old, while Kelly is 27 years old—meaning both of these Colts’ star interior offensive linemen are in their prime and should be foundational franchise pieces in the offensive trenches for many more years to come—working in tandem: